In Canada, there are over eight million family caregivers, and over 94,000 in the Greater Victoria area alone. Are you one? Perhaps you found it difficult to answer this question because you are not sure what family caregivers are or what they do. Perhaps you never realized the information provided in this monthly column applies to you and your situation.
One of the challenges we experience at the Family Caregivers' Network is creating awareness and having people self-identify as family caregivers, thereby understanding that the services and programs we offer would be useful to them. So, are you a family caregiver?
Family caregivers provide care and support to family members, friends or neighbours who are chronically ill, frail, elderly or disabled. The person they care for might be an elderly parent, a chronically ill spouse or an adult disabled child. The care recipient may either live in his own home, with the caregiver, or in a care facility. A family caregiver is sometimes also referred to as an unpaid caregiver or informal caregiver.
Family caregivers provide care for a variety of reasons. It may be out of love and caring, a sense of duty, obligation, guilt or because there doesn't seem to be anyone else available. The support provided can range from simply driving the person to a doctor's appointment, picking up groceries to the other extreme of providing one-on-one personal care 24-hours per day, seven days per week. The assistance that family caregivers provide can include:
* Personal care: Assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, medications, helping the person in and out of bed or communicating with healthcare workers on his behalf.
* Household tasks: Paying bills, shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning or gardening.
* Companionship: Accompanying someone to a doctor's appointment or sitting in on an appointment, going to church with them, reading, playing cards, going to the park or simply keeping them company and providing emotional support.
* Legal and Financial: Managing household paperwork, managing finances or, depending on the person's cognitive condition, the caregiver may have Power of Attorney to make decisions on behalf of that person.
Self-identifying as a family caregiver is one of the first steps toward recognizing the demands and responsibilities that the role entails, asking for and receiving help and accessing information and services that can help alleviate some of the burden.
Once you recognize that you are a family caregiver, you will realize that you are not alone - one in four Canadians are in the same situation as you. The Victoria-based Family Caregivers' Network, and similar organizations in your community, can provide programs and services that can assist you, including telephone and in-person support, a resource lending library, support groups, educational workshops and a comprehensive website. Call the Family Caregivers' Network at 250-384-0408 or visit www.familycaregiversnetwork.org for more information, including referral to resources in your own community. Also, your local health authority can provide support and assistance through their Home and Community Care programs. Call 1-888-533-2273 or visit www.viha.ca/hcc/ to access these services.
Next month: How to Support the Person Caring for You
JULY 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER
JULY 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND